Dear Scott,

When I think about outside influences on our marriage, I think of everything outside the two of us. We have had many outside influences, but if I had to identify two of the most significant so far, I would point to Children’s Hospital and the church in which you served as an elder.

ultrasoundWe met our first significant crisis as a couple in a dimly-lit room in the Emergency Department of Children’s. The words “heart defects” were very closely followed by, “This kind of thing is very difficult on relationships. It’s okay to get help.”

We learned how each other handles fear and uncertainty, and how crazy I get when I’m sleep deprived. The nights after her heart surgeries, we squeezed into a twin bed in the ICU sleep rooms just a few dozen yards from her room. You impressed me with your willingness to keep me company while I undertook the incredibly unsexy task of pumping breast milk every 3-4 hours (I think it’s nothing short of a miracle that you are still attracted to me after seeing that). We made charts so we could keep track of who gave which meds, and you cheered me on as I learned how to insert an NG tube into Elli’s nose and down into her stomach. Hardest of all, as the years went on we began to spend evenings discussing how to care for her when we were old and she was full-grown, and how to handle the end of her life.

It turns out that we wouldn’t need formal help until after she died.

The pressure of raising a child who needed frequent long stays at Children’s Hospital changed us. So did the pressure of taking on responsibilities at church. I have written before on how we shared the load, deferring to the one who had the most time or the strongest ability in a given area. We had learned how to work together under hospital pressure – learning foreign tasks, living in uncertainty, making life-or-death decisions. In the church, we learned how to work under a different kind of pressure – the kind that comes with working closely with different kinds of people, various degrees of expectations, and all the communication and coordination that working with people requires. We uncovered weaknesses in ourselves we didn’t know about before, like how deeply hurt and angry I get when you are misunderstood or falsely accused, and how difficult it is to bring yourself to confront someone who is already struggling.

Outside influences can’t change the core of who we are. But they bring who we are to light, in all its beauty or ugliness. Outside influences either soften hard edges and refine impurities away, or they scar and burn and shrivel. We’re a combination of all of this, with plenty of ugly, refinement, scars and softer edges, but I think we fit more tightly today than we did fourteen years ago. That’s one thing I can be thankful for in all of the heartache.

Love,

Joy

We’ve been sharing the real-life ups and downs of marriage in this weekly series in hopes that we can encourage one another to fight hard for our marriages. This week’s writing prompt was “On Outside Influences.” If you joined Scott, Seth, Amber, and I writing this week’s letters, link up at Amber’s place. We plan to take the month of May off from this series, but follow The RunaMuck on Facebook for updates because I suspect we’ll be writing letters again soon. What topics should we write on next?

What have outside influences done for your marriage?